Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN
Many people report needing to go to the bathroom shortly after drinking coffee. Coffee, especially when it contains caffeine, stimulates gastric acid secretion and motor activity in the colon.
However, it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. For some, it’s a harmless way to stay regular. For others, it exacerbates troublesome digestive issues. There are also other potential benefits and side effects of drinking coffee.
This article explores how coffee makes you poop and why it’s problematic for some people.
Coffee and the Urge to Poop: Is It Normal?
It’s perfectly normal for some people to feel the urge to poop after drinking coffee. Yet others don’t seem to be affected.
Coffee, particularly coffee with caffeine, does have some effect on the colon. It stimulates contractions in the colon and speeds up bowel activity. It may also have a laxative effect on some people.
But it’s not all about the caffeine. Roasted coffee has thousands of bioactive compounds. Researchers don’t fully understand how each affects the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Studies suggest that with or without caffeine, coffee promotes the desire to go in at least one-third of the population, predominantly women.
Even some decaffeinated coffees may contain chemicals that can lead to loose stools.
Benefits of Using Coffee to Make You Poop
You shouldn’t have to rely on coffee to stay regular. But it’s a nice benefit if you enjoy drinking it. Other benefits of coffee include:
Some studies suggest that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of chronic kidney disease. Other research finds no evidence that moderate coffee consumption raises the risk of kidney stones in healthy individuals, provided you take in enough fluid overall.
About 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine daily, which equals about four or five cups of coffee, is not usually associated with negative effects. However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.
Mushroom coffee blends ground coffee beans and mushrooms, such as lion’s mane, reishi, and chaga. Many mushrooms are considered functional foods, which may have many positive health effects. More research is needed. Some things to know about these coffee blends include:
You’ll get about half the caffeine of a cup of regular coffee. This may be helpful if caffeine triggers loose stools or diarrhea.
Mushroom coffee can lead to digestive problems if you already have kidney or digestive issues.
Some mushrooms may improve gut health because they contain prebiotics.
Some mushrooms are hard to digest and can cause gas (flatulence).
Avoid mushroom coffee if you are allergic to mushrooms.
Aggravated Symptoms and Flares From Coffee Poops
More than two or three cups of coffee a day can sometimes cause diarrhea.
If you have aggravated symptoms from coffee, you might also consider the effects of any add-ins such as milk, milk substitutes, creamers, and flavorings. Lactose intolerance, which affects about 65% of people, makes it hard to digest drinks that contain milk and dairy products. Adding too much artificial sweetener, such as sorbitol, or oil (to keto coffees) can have a laxative effect.
Some research suggests that coffee and caffeine are associated with greater odds of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), especially among women. Many people with IBS identify coffee as a trigger for IBS symptoms, such as dyspepsia (indigestion), pain, and loose stools.
As for claims that coffee enemas can relieve constipation, a systematic review found no evidence that they are helpful. There’s no scientific evidence or recommendations regarding its effectiveness and safe administration. Coffee enemas are risky and have been known to cause:
Rectal burn or perforation
Pain in the lower abdomen or anal region
Colitis (when the inner lining of the colon is inflamed)
If you have constipation, ask a healthcare provider if another type of enema is the right choice.
How Soon After Drinking Coffee Will You Poop?
Everyone is different. However, one thing that may affect your body’s reaction is time of day. Your GI tract is most active in the morning and daytime.
For some people, the urge to go can hit as soon as four minutes after drinking coffee. But you might find that it takes 30 minutes or more. Whether you have digestive conditions can also affect how quickly your system reacts.
Delaying Coffee Poops: What’s Possible?
It may or may not be the caffeine that makes you poop right away, so you might want to try decaf to see if that helps.
You can also experiment to see if milk, cream, or other add-ins contribute to the sense of urgency. You can always reduce the amount of coffee you drink or wait to drink it after your first bowel movement.
Still Can’t Poop After Drinking Coffee
If coffee doesn’t help, you may wish to try other remedies for constipation, which include:
Increase fiber in your diet or take a fiber supplement.
Drink more water.
Get regular exercise.
Try to move your bowels at the same time every day.
Try over-the-counter stool softeners and laxatives. (Note: Using laxatives or stimulant laxatives can harm bowel health.)
Chronic constipation can be a side effect of medication, including opioids or overuse of laxatives. It can also be caused by conditions such as:
Chronic constipation can lead to complications, so seeing a healthcare provider for treatment is important.
Coffee stimulates the colon, which can bring on the urge to poop. For some, that urge comes within minutes of drinking that first cup of coffee. There are thousands of compounds in coffee, and many people add cream, milk, or other flavorings that may also affect the digestive system.
For most healthy people, a few cups of coffee to stay regular is harmless. If you notice stomach upset, loose stools, or diarrhea after coffee, try cutting back or taking out the add-ins to find the source of the problem. Drinking coffee may relieve constipation, but if constipation persists, see a healthcare provider to learn the cause.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.